In this article we will explain to you how to EQ strings.
The first thing that you need to think through is which exact strings you need, regarding what you want to accomplish musically, as well as the difference in EQing synths and acoustic strings.
When talking about EQing and low-end specifically, you should remove everything that stays under 80 Hz. In the midrange, you should focus on getting rid of muddiness by cutting around 205 Hz of high strings and cutting around 250 Hz to 1 kHz of low strings. Finally, in highs, you should eliminate all possible peaks of high strings by surgically cutting them and boosting low strings around 6-8 kHz.
Those are the general guidelines, but let’s get into more details.
Before you get straight to the EQ phase, there are a few nuances that you should be aware of.
Firstly, you should come to terms with whether you need a strings synth, strings library, or to record a strings section.
If we talk about strings synths, then you should evaluate your possibilities and choose the best for you. The same applies to string libraries, as there are a lot of them on the market and you should really think through which one you need, or maybe more than one.
If you’re sure that recording of the acoustic strings section is what you truly need, then you have to spend a great deal of time and resources to record them properly.
Lastly, reverb plays a great deal when you’re using synth strings or acoustic ones, still, you have to consider more space and air in your recording.
How to EQ synth strings
Some might say that synth strings are more attractive in terms of EQing than acoustic strings. That’s because the moment that you load a library in your DAW of choice, the strings have already been equalized to be more commercially attractive, so you don’t need to spend that much time EQing them. All that you need to do is to get rid of any unpleasant sounding frequencies to make sure that your strings sit well in the mix.
How to EQ acoustic strings
It’s a whole other story when we talk about acoustic strings because you always have the raw material. You should be very careful and gentle with your recording because any careless move might lead to very unpleasant consequences. You might want to add reverb to add more space and complement your idea better. After, you have to balance everything well by re-listening the whole piece and certain parts closely. Then you have to find all unpleasant sounding frequencies and carefully and surgically remove them.
Basic principles of EQing strings
After you’ve figured out which strings you will use for your mix and applied a little reverb, it’s time to bring out the EQ plugin.
If we’re talking about low-end, you’ll need to cut around 80 Hz to get rid of muddiness, cut 100-150 Hz for low strings, but apply a small boost with narrow Q for high strings. To eliminate muddiness in the mid-range, apply a cut around 205 Hz for high strings, and 250 Hz to 1 kHz for low strings. Finally, to add more body to high strings, you have to boost around 380 Hz and get rid of peaks using a cut with a narrow Q.
To make low strings sit good in a mix, you should boost using a wide Q around 1-6 kHz, and achieving clarity, you should boost from 6 to 8 kHz.
When we’re talking about the low end, keep in mind that most of the time this is the place where all the rumble and muddiness lives. So, it doesn’t really matter which strings we’re talking about – low or high strings, the rule stays the same, you have to remove everything below 80 Hz.
Then, things get a bit different.. adding a small boost with a narrow Q around 100 – 150 Hz will add the bottom to high strings. If low strings are in conflict with the bass guitar, then you should apply a gentle cut around 100-150 Hz that will do the masking.
The low end isn’t the only place where muddiness lives, it also can be found in the mid-range. So if your mix with strings sounds still way too muddy, you can apply a cut around 205 Hz of high strings.
With low strings, you have to cut again somewhere around 250 Hz to 1 kHz. But you shouldn’t overdo those cuts, otherwise, you would end up with characterless strings, and you certainly don’t want that.
In order to achieve fullness or add more body to high strings, you have to make a boost around 380 Hz while using a wider Q factor. The majority of the loud and overbright peaks that you need to get rid of live around 2.5 kHz, 4.6 kHz, and 7 kHz. So to eliminate all of them, you should cut each one of them using a narrow Q.
Also, you may find that your mix has more high peaks around other frequencies as well, so you should cut them using the same narrow Q.
In order to make low strings feel good in the mix and make them crunchier, you should make a boost using a wide Q around 1-6 kHz. If you need to add some clarity or presence, you should apply a gentle boost from 6 to 8 kHz. And if you need more air, then make one more boost from 8 to 12 kHz.
Choosing synth strings
Synth strings can be found in two variables, such as string synths and VST String libraries. Strings synth took their earned place in defining music in the late 70’s. They had become a good choice for those who couldn’t allow themselves to record a live string section and sometimes strings synth provided even better sound than acoustic strings. A String synth easily creates electrical signals with the help of an oscillator, then through its amplifier, the sound transfers quickly to the speakers.
Strings libraries are more widely-known than string synths and there’re a lot of well-known manufacturers who create the most tear-jerking and heartwarming libraries that you’ve ever heard. Each of the existing libraries has its very own signature sound and can be easily mixed with libraries from other manufacturers.
So if you found yourself at the crossroads of whether to choose a string synth or a string library, it’s a matter of personal preferences and possibilities. Whatever you choose, you should keep in mind the style of the future track and be a hundred percent sure that you’re in favor of the sound even without any EQ.
Recording of acoustic strings
If you’re fond of acoustic strings sound and are lucky enough to record a string section, you should be aware of a few nuances that you may encounter. The first thing that you need to worry about is planning the session through, starting from the place of recording. It would be greatly appreciated later if you chose the space with great reverberation so that you wouldn’t have to add more reverb on the mastering stage. Choosing the right mic is as important as everything else, so you should choose in favor of microphones with the straightest frequency response. After you’ve chosen the mic, you should think through mics placement so that you would catch even tiny nuances.
You should keep in mind that strings being real ones or a VST instrument always sound better with a reverb. Generally, strings sound good when placed in a large or medium artificial hall, so if your reverb has this kind of a preset, it’s a good place to start. A reverb with a short decay time might be another good choice as it makes things bigger, though you should be looking to get a lush sound. You can find yourself in a situation when the reverb makes your strings sound muddy, so if this is the case, you should use the pre-delay parameter that will let the attack of the strings kick first. So whatever reverb you’ll be using, you should always remember that it adds volume and space and can change drastically tonal characteristics of the sound.
The best melodies that make us laugh, cry, fall in love, and sink in the depth of sorrow are created with the help of acoustic strings or synth strings libraries. The string section is full of character and nuances that sometimes make it tough to EQ. Hence, we hope that by now you’ve learned not only how important it is to craft this instrument via EQing, but also how to do so, thus eradicating the challenge of EQing strings.